Why parenting a toddler is particularly hard for the modern marketer

As a parent of a toddler boy, I've often found myself getting so frustrated, to a place I don't like, that I started doing some real self hard thinking about the causes (it’s the research background!). One of the major realizations I've had is that the frustration is in part because "working" with a toddler goes completely against how I spend most of my day as a marketer. And I know I'm not alone. In fact, I've seen lots of friends and colleagues who work with data struggle with toddler thinking.

Don't get me wrong, parenting is obviously hard for everyone, but I wonder if it feels even harder for the modern marketer (or researcher) because of the way we are trained. We take pride in using data to identify what works and modifying what doesn’t.

Unfortunately, my little dude seems to fall outside the realm of data integrity.

Below are four things that are particularly confounding in our dual roles as parent and professional.

1) It's the journey, not the destination. At work we are taught that the outcome is what matters most. We look at the data and decide if something has worked or not, rarely taking joy in the process itself. Unfortunately, toddlers don't give a crap about the quality of the end result.

Their goal isn't to make the best dinner - it's to make something together, spill ingredients all over the table, and potentially eat something completely different for their meal. And frankly, their version of quality is suspect at best. I mean, when I look at a drawing and say "that looks great buddy," I'm just thinking "I'm not sure that looks like a house with a dog and a monster. People will never get what you're trying to say!"

2) Total disregard for longitudinal data. As marketers we love longitudinal data. After all, history generally repeats itself and seasonality is essential to effective planning, right? Sadly, toddlers can't even put together two weeks of data that makes sense. The journey from "I only want chicken nuggets for lunch" to "I don't want to ever eat chicken nuggets again" is extremely short lived. When people ask me "what is he into to?" I just chuckle. This week it's Yo Gabba Gabba, next week could be anything. Not sure I have chartable trend line there!

3) Rules? What rules. Our boy loves playing board games. He just doesn't like playing them the way they were intended. He doesn't see chutes in Chutes and Ladders. He doesn't believe in only flipping two cards in memory. And he certainly doesn't understand that you take turns in connect Four.

While I appreciate that he is figuring out how the world works, his inability to listen to the rules has me taking notes for his next performance review (when do we get to have those?).

4) Efficiency is frowned upon. As modern professionals (or at least hard-driving ones) we all want to get through as many tasks as well as possible every single day. High output = high value. Dealing with a toddler is the complete opposite. I'd pay good money for an activity that lasted longer than 20 minutes so were only doing three things on a Saturday instead of 23.

So what am I doing about it? Other than going even more bald than before, I've been trying really really hard to slow down and leave my work brain at the office. I've found that there's really no fire to run to or from most of the time and that taking a few extra minutes here and there actually makes the day run smoother. (Note: Trying!!)

I was inspired by this blog post - and even attempting to live this way has dropped my stress level considerably.

I'm not one to give unwelcome parenting advice to people outside of out family, but as they say on my boy's very temporary favorite show "try it, you might like it."


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